© Helvetas / Jens Engeli

Training on Sustainable Land Management

© Helvetas / Jens Engeli

Module 1: Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management

This module explains key concepts relating to climate change and disaster risk management and presents an overview of the related international frameworks.

Climate change

The global climate has always been changing but there is strong scientific consensus that since the industrial revolution, human actions have become a significant contributing factor. This is called ‘anthropogenic climate change’ and it involves greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from energy production, industry, transport, agriculture and other sectors. Rising concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere lead to global temperature rise. Higher temperatures, in turn affect the climate, the global water cycles; snow and glaciers melt, sea levels, rain patterns and the occurrence of extreme weather events (see also modules 2 and 3).

Mitigation and adaptation are the two key strategies to address climate change. They are complementary and non-exclusive. Adaptation is the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. Adaptation seeks to moderate negative impacts and to exploit beneficial opportunities where possible. Mitigation refers to interventions to reduce the sources or to enhance the sinks of greenhouse gas emissions.

Disaster risk management

Disaster risk management (DRM) aims to systematically avoid (prevent) and limit (prepare/mitigate) disaster risks with regard to loss in lives, social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries. Disaster risk management is the application of policies, processes and actions to prevent new risks, reduce existing risks and manage residual risks contributing to the strengthening of resilience (Figure 1).
Poverty and inequality often push women and men to live in marginalised places that are risky, such as alongside rivers, in floodplains, marginal lands or slopes. Other drivers are population growth and migration, particularly evident in cities where high population density, inadequate urban planning and poor infrastructure lead to a concentration of risks. Climate change is now an important additional driver of disaster risks.
A disaster can be rapid or slow onset (see Module 8). Disaster events tend to increase in intensity and frequency due to climate change and have a higher impact on the most vulnerable. It is estimated that climate change impacts and related disasters could push back over 100 million women and men into poverty in the next 15 years despite major gains in poverty reduction.
Figure 1: Integrated risk management cycle (Swiss Government 2001/2012)

Climate change and disaster risk management

Disaster risk is composed of three elements: hazard, exposure and vulnerability (see Figure 2). Hazard is the potential occurrence of a harmful event (hydrometeorological, geophysical or biological) that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, as well as damage and loss of property, infrastructure and natural resources.

Exposure is defined as the presence of people, assets and resources in places that could be adversely affected. Vulnerability is the propensity or predisposition to be adversely affected. Capacity refers to all the resources available to an individual, community, society or organisation to reduce vulnerability and deal with the consequences of disasters. Among families, communities and regions there are differences in vulnerability, exposure and capacity. When a hazard interfaces with exposure and vulnerability, it results in a disaster. The extent of the disaster risk is moderated by the capability of the community or system. As can be seen from Figure 2, climate – both its natural variations and anthropogenic climate change – influences the degree of disaster risks. The level of development and the nature of development interventions also influence the degree of risks.

Whilst all countries suffer from disasters, the loss of lives due to disasters is largely concentrated in developing countries, while loss of assets in developed countries. For instance, during the period from 1970 to 2008, over 95 percent of deaths from natural disasters occurred in developing countries. While natural hazards cannot be fully avoided, disasters can, to a large extent, be avoided by reducing the exposure of communities to the hazard, increasing their capacities to withstand it and/or by reducing their vulnerability. In sum, disasters are not purely the results of shocks, stresses and hazardous events, but the product of social, political and economic context in which they occur.
Figure 2: The risk of disaster depends on three elements - the hazard, vulnerability and exposure to this hazard (IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

Why climate change and disaster risk management in development cooperation?

Poverty and vulnerability to disasters are closely linked: low-income countries and, within them, the poorest and most disadvantaged groups are typically at greatest risk and disproportionately affected by disasters. In Afghanistan, flash floods and droughts are the major hazards causing substantial damage each year (Figure 3). Economic losses due to droughts and floods in Afghanistan are estimated at around US$ 16,705 Mio between 2005 and 2014. It is important to underline that smaller but more frequent events – extensive disasters – are not included in the national statistics although they have a debilitating effect on the poor.

Disasters are setbacks to development and can destroy decades of progress. Poverty reduction, adaptation to climate change and DRM are closely interlinked and interdependent objectives, and hence must be addressed jointly. Integrated Risk Management is a useful approach to contribute to resilience building by adapting to climate change, limiting disaster risks, reducing poverty and improving livelihoods.
Figure 3: Economic losses by hazard types between 2005-2014 in Afghanistan (Preventionweb/EMDat Afghanistan)

International frameworks

Climate change

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the international agreement that was opened to signature in June 1992 during the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro and came into force in March 1994. The Convention’s goal is to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere ‘at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner’ (UN, 1992).

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international scientific body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988. The IPCC publishes periodic Assessment Reports (five reports to date) based on existing scientific literature on climate change.

Afghanistan signed the UNFCCC in 1992, and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, valid until 2020, in 2013. The Paris Agreement (signed in April 2016) is the universal commitment that seeks to limit global warming to less than 2°C. Afghanistan has presented the following climate change related strategies and documents to the UN-FCCC:

  • National Adaptation Programmes of Action for Climate Change (NAPA) and National Capacity Needs Selfassessment for Global Environmental Management (NCSA) in 2009.
  • National Communication submitted in 2012, and is currently preparing its Second National Communication (SNC) for submission to the UNFCCC in 2016.
  • At present, Afghanistan is finalizing its national Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (ACCSAP) as well as its National Adaptation Plan (NAP).
  • For the negotiations in Paris, each country had to submit its national contribution, the ‘Intended nationally determined contribution’ (INDC) which gives an overview of what Afghanistan aims to do in for mitigation but also highlights its adaptation needs.
The National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) is the leading Afghan national institution to coordinate with Climate Change conventions, development partners and government and private institutions.

Disaster risk management

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) was signed by 187 states, including Afghanistan, in March 2015 and replaces the former Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015) on disaster risk reduction.

In Afghanistan, the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) is responsible for DRM and has provincial offices and coordinating mechanism through the National Disaster Management Commission as well as Provincial Disaster Management Committee at the sub-national levels.

Further information

The following modules are available on request:
Climate change
Module 2: Impacts of Climate Change on Landscapes
Module 3: Impacts of Climate Change on Livelihoods
Module 4: Adaptation Options
Module 5: Mitigation Options
Module 6: The Water-Energy-Food Nexus
Module 7: Tools and Methods for Risk and Vulnerability Assessment 

Disaster risk management
Module 8: DRM of Hydro-Meteorological Hazards
Module 9: DRM Measures in the Uplands
Module 10: DRM Measures in the Lowlands
We also offer tailor-made workshops and webinars on these topics.


E-Learning course on DRR & CCA

The Swiss NGO DRR Platform has released a basic E-Learning Course on
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA)
for self-paced e-learning consisting of four modules in the form of power point presentations ready for download. The course is open to everybody, particularly addressing practitioners new to the fields of DRR and CCA. It is based on the broad expertise of the Swiss NGO DRR Platform and its partners with practical case studies from different geographic contexts, illustrative video material and further references.

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Every year, we support over 1,000,000 people adapt to climate change, reduce the risks of disasters, sustainably manage natural resources, and conserve nature.

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